Critical Conversations

Presidential Contenders Who May Succeed Buhari: Prof Yemi Osinbajo (part 2)

Although Nigeria’s ruling party, the All Progressive Congress (APC) has not formally declared its stand on the zones that can contest for its presidential ticket, the dominance of southerners on the list of the party’s presidential hopefuls might provide a hint on the line the party is likely to pursue.

In the first part of this report where the strengths and weaknesses of a frontline prospective aspirant were analysed, it was stated that most members of the APC are gravitating towards southern political leaders with national appeal.

Open campaigns have not yet begun, but the body languages, subtle pronouncements, solicitations, and discourses have long begun.

It was noted in the first segment of this piece that any individual nursing the ambition of running for the presidency in 2023, especially within the APC, must have known clearly that Bola Ahmed Tinubu will be one of the most formidable challengers. With a good number of governors and senators emerging from his political camp, defeating Tinubu in next year’s contest for APC’s presidential ticket would not be a tea party.

However, in politics, the word ‘upset’ does not exist for the purposes of embellishment, as all things are not always equal in most contests. Besides, politicians are not commodities but human beings that can easily be influenced to change camp with superior arguments and higher benefits This is why many analysts are adamant in insisting that despite his seeming lack of interest, Nigeria’s current Vice-President remains a very strong contender on the list of those who may succeed President Buhari.

Prof Yemi Osinbajo

Interestingly, Prof Osinbajo has shown very little or no interest in the presidential race till date. Although he has very good working and personal relationships with the 36 governors by virtue of being the chairman of NEC, the vice-president has chosen to stay aloof; instead, he is focusing on his work as a dutiful deputy. Many people in his position would have utilized such a platform to their advantage. But Osinbajo is known to have confided in close associates that his major preoccupation is to be a successful vice-president, and would not be distraught if nothing else comes his way.

The vice-president has never really been politically ambitious. Many analysts believe he is guided by experience. From the records, those who started Nigeria’s presidential race early in the past had never braced the tape. Look at Obafemi Awolowo, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Atiku Abubakar, and others. In fact, the list could be quite long. Osinbajo’s reluctant body language fits those that have succeeded to become presidents. Shehu Shagari wanted to be a senator before he was drafted into the presidency. Obasanjo exclaimed, “How many presidents do you want to make out of me” when the idea to contest as President was sold to him. Jonathan confessed he wanted to be governor when he was “dragged” into the presidency.

Indeed many feel it is the low-profile lifestyle that has endeared Osinbajo’s possible candidacy to the powerful intellectual wing of the Buharist team with strong political control of a large segment of northern Nigerian. There are reports that many northern elites are not too comfortable with Tinubu’s independent-mindedness. Combined with massive political structures and a huge financial war chest, they feel Bola Tinubu could become arrogant and unapproachable as president. So this large group would gladly queue behind a reputable, but seemingly more controllable candidate like Osibanjo who would have no option than to depend on their huge political structures and financial support for victory. In politics, such support comes with massive influence and horse-trading.

Obviously, the manner Professor Osinbajo has handled his duties in the last six years; his personal comportment, controlled ambition, professional conduct, and loyalty to the party and the President must have yielded quality political dividends that could bring the ultimate harvest in 2023.

A top northern chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Abubakar Girei, must have been trying to test the waters ahead of the 2023 presidential elections when he declared that only a ticket of Vice President Yemi Osibanjo and Governor Babagana Zulum will guarantee victory for the ruling party.

According to Girei, if the APC will zone the presidential slot to the south, it will be proper to consider giving the ticket to the serving vice president, to consolidate on the successes of President Muhammadu Buhari, and Zulum, the governor of Borno State, as his running mate. The APC chief, who spoke to journalists on national issues, also called on the leadership of the party to avoid any costly mistake in picking its presidential candidate and running mate:

“Somebody who, by right and constitutionally, should fly the flag of APC come 2023 is the Vice President of Nigeria, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, and he is from the southwest. Who else is better than him? Even the southwest we are talking about, it is not that they are the most deserving zone in this country. The most deserving, as far as I am concerned, is the Northeast, followed by the Southeast.

“The Northeast has never produced the president of this country. So, ideally, they should be the one we should be talking about to produce the next president, but because of this gentleman agreement and understanding, we said the southwest played very prominent role in midwifing APC and has given 100 percent support to the emergence of Muhammadu Buhari as President.

“Therefore, morally, we are duty bound to have someone from the southwest as the next president. Whoever comes out to be the flag bearer of APC from South West, I think he should naturally pick someone from the Northeast as his running mate.

“If somebody like Prof. Osinbajo can pair up with Prof. Zulum, I have no doubt in my mind that we will win the election hands down.”

Apart from the possible strong support from northern elites, looking at the presidential arrangement in Nigeria, whether by design, default, or coincidence, it tilts in favour of Osinbajo. If one looks at it from 1999, one will see that the country had Obasanjo, a Christian President by religion from the south. After Obasanjo, power shifted to Yar’Adua, a Muslim from the north, and power again shifted to a Christian Jonathan from the South before power again moved to Buhari, a northern Muslim. By reasoning, one would naturally want to deduce that the next President would be a Christian southerner.

Read Also: Presidential Contenders Who May Succeed Buhari: Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu (Part 1)

Although many Nigerians will not say it openly, the truth is that religious sentiments have very strong impact in voting patterns. Many Christians in the southeast and south-south political zones will find the possibility of a Muslim spending eight years as president after Buhari’s exit a very bitter pill to swallow. It is this type of sentiment that many expect Osinbajo to capitalize on and win big in the southeast and south-south during the APC primaries.

Even within the Southwest, observers believe the relocation of Osinbajo’s political home base from Lagos Island to Ikenne, Ogun state is a political masterstroke to capture Ogun state during the presidential primaries. Besides, the Vice President has been facing political strangulation lately in Lagos. Even some nominations from his table into the Lagos State Executive Council were clearly ignored. It must have become clear to the Vice President that there will be no contest for him in Lagos hence the decision to relocate his political base to Ogun State as seen during the last APC registration exercise in Lagos.

The race to Aso Villa from now till 2023 promises to be a tough and interesting one. While some aspirants might have their financial strength and massive political structure as the edge they will bring to the table, others prefer to rely on the strength of their backers, political permutations, and personal appeal. Still, there are many others like Governor Kayode Fayemi, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, Rotimi Amaechi, Goodluck Jonathan, Atiku Abubakar, Yahaya Bello, Ayo Fayose, and a host of others holding their trump cards to their chest. We will ensure that we pip into those cards and analyse why they should genuinely be seen as possible contenders that can take over from President Buhari.

Ntia Usukuma

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.